Howard Steyn [That’s Mark Steyn. -ed.] has a solid analysis of why Howard Dean has come out of nowhere to win and why he believes Hillary Clinton should join the race. On Dean,

A year ago, no one outside New England had heard of him, and the famous fellows were all the senators–Joe Lieberman, John Kerry. Now everyone’s heard of Dean, and Lieberman and Kerry are getting more obscure by the hour. With the California recall election sucking all the attention away from the presidential midgets for the next month and a half, these fellows will be lucky if they’re still in the game at all by Oct. 8.

All this was predictable. In the modern era, governors make the best candidates and senators the worst. The trouble with Bill Clinton’s Democratic Party is that by the end of his personality-cult presidency it had so declined at all other levels that it controlled the governor’s mansion in almost no big states except California. And no one wants Gray Davis running for president right now. So the pool of viable Democrats able to run from the governor’s mansion shrunk to Howard Dean of Vermont, a state so modest its governor doesn’t even get a mansion.

As I said a couple of months back, Dean’s on course to kill off two big-time rivals in the first two votes: Dick Gephardt in Iowa, John Kerry in New Hampshire. By Jan. 27, he could be the nominee. In the last week or two, he’s started behaving like he already is. Dean’s suddenly ceased pandering to the party’s anti-war base, and begun equivocating his way back to the center. Meanwhile, the previously relatively sensible candidates he’s tugged to the left over the last few months are now beached out on the fringe: Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, a hitherto sober chap with a solid foreign policy reputation, was last heard of threatening to impeach Bush over Iraq.

Indeed. As to Clinton,

The Clintons didn’t get where they are without being bold: No experts thought Bush Sr. could lose in ’92, but an obscure Arkansas governor did; no experts thought a sitting first lady could run for office, but Hillary did. They had plenty of luck: Ross Perot vote-splitting in ’92, and the pre-9/11 Rudy Giuliani going into emotional meltdown in 2000. But fortune favors the brave, and if Hillary was to shoot for the big one, I wouldn’t be surprised if some equally unforeseen breaks go her way.

The way to look at it is like this: What does she have to gain by waiting four years? If Bush wins a second term, the Clinton aura will be very faded by 2008. And, if by some weird chance Bush loses to a Howard Dean, she’s going to have to hang around till 2012. Logic dictates that, if Hillary wants to be president, it’s this year or none. In her reflexive attacks on Bush over the war and the blackout and everything else, she already sounds like a candidate. The press will lapse into its familiar poodle mode (”Do you think you’ve been attacked so harshly because our society still has difficulty accepting a strong, intelligent woman?” etc.). And, more to the point, when the party’s busting to hand you the nomination, you only get one opportunity to refuse.

Realistically, Hillary has to decide in the next eight weeks. If the meteoric rise of Howard Dean has stalled by then, the answer’s obvious. And, even if it hasn’t, you need an awful lot of $20 Internet donations to counter a couple of checks from Barbra Streisand. This is Hillary’s moment. You go, girl.

I still have trouble seeing Hillary Clinton–or, for that matter, Howard Dean–doing well in the southern primaries. But, unlike a few months ago, there doesn’t appear to be a candidate who will be appealing in the South, since I now expect John Edwards and Bob Graham to pull out of the race to focus on their re-elections to the Senate.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tom Royce says:

    I would be very surprised if Hillary does not run. She is in a traditional Clintonian election pattern as evidenced by Bill prior to his 92 presidential run and Hillary’s own senatorial run. First, denial that they will run. Second, recognize the voices calling for them to enter the race while denying they will run. Third, conduct a fact finding or listening tour to develop the base and diffusing media attention from the development of the campaign apparatus. Finally, Fourth, the reluctant candidate enters the race “for the good of the (cause here).

    I would be very surprised with the present political climate that Hillary will not run.

  2. Dave says:

    Howard Steyn?

    I think you’ve got Dean on the brain; Mark Steyn.

  3. SwampWoman says:

    I agree that Hillary would have a lot of trouble in the south. She may have had actual respect if she would have kicked Bill to the curb with the rest of the trash.